Trump himself has apparently failed to grasp, or at least acknowledge, the implications of recent developments in North Korea. Asked about Pyongyang’s November test, Trump deflected. “I will only tell you that we will take care of it,” he told reporters.
But “taking care of it” apparently didn’t include any meaningful effort to talk to Pyongyang. A major diplomatic push by the Obama administration in 2015 convinced Iran to give up its own nuclear program. Trump made no effort to duplicate that success. “Time for talk is over,” Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said of North Korea in July.
At the time of the November test, all the key top State Department posts for dealing with North Korea were vacant. “For the 400th time, I would like to know why we don’t yet have an ambassador in Seoul or an [assistant secretary of state for the Asia-Pacific region],” Alexandra Bell, a former State Department adviser, tweeted shortly after Pyongyang’s ICBM splashed down.